Wells Fargo and BlackRock delay return-to-office plans until October

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Wells Fargo and BlackRock have delayed until October plans for staff to come back to the office, a sign of how the spread of the Delta variant is hampering plans to return to pre-Covid work life.

The US bank and the asset manager are among the latest large American employers to revise or delay plans to return to the office more regularly, as the number of Covid infections in the country rises.

Wells, one of America’s largest retail banks with 4,900 branches, had hoped to bring its workers back to the office after the US Labor Day holiday on September 6.

“Today, given rising Covid-19 case rates around the US, we are announcing a postponement of our return to office plans until October 4,” Wells said in a memo to staff on Thursday.

“This postponement applies to US employees who are currently working from home, and does not affect employees currently reporting to work in-person or participating in voluntary early returns.”

The bank asked its workers to “take advantage of the extra time off that Wells Fargo offers for you to get vaccinated”. Wells said almost 90 per cent of its US employees had replied to a mandatory bank questionnaire about their vaccination status.

BlackRock has told staff that plans for a full return to their offices will be delayed until the start of October from early September, citing concerns over the Delta variant.

“This additional time will allow those who are able and comfortable to continue to work from our offices, while providing continued flexibility to work from home for those who like or need it,” BlackRock said in a memo sent by senior management. 

BlackRock said during this extended reacclimatisation period, it would continue to allow only fully vaccinated individuals to work in its US offices.

Spurred on by the rapid rollout of vaccines this spring, many companies that had asked staff to work remotely during the pandemic had previously hoped to return to more regular in-person work after Labor Day, seen in the US as the unofficial end of summer.

But a resurgence of the virus, primarily among unvaccinated individuals, has prompted many to rethink or revise those plans. Companies including Google, Walmart and Walt Disney have announced stricter mask or vaccine requirements for employees or customers in recent days, while others, including Microsoft and Apple, have also delayed return-to-office plans until October.

Financial groups have been among the most aggressive in bringing their workers back to the office, with some executives flagging concerns of cultural drift that could come with continued remote working. 

Goldman Sachs was the first large bank to mandate employees return to the office in early June and about half of the bank’s staff are now coming back into the office. Speaking last month David Solomon, Goldman’s chief executive, described having bankers back in the office as “invigorating”.

“I believe bringing us back together, forging the close bonds that support a culture of collaboration, has renewed the sense of teamwork and apprenticeship that allows our people and our business to thrive,” Solomon said.

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, said on Tuesday the bank had no plans to walk back on its current push to get its workers back in the office, though the bank is regularly reviewing the decision. JPMorgan starting mandating bankers return to the office in the US in June.

“So, we’ve asked our folks, 100 per cent of the people, to come in. And that we do not intend to change,” Dimon told the Fox Business channel. “And, of course, like any rational person [we] look at all these things, the local laws, the local requirements, we have the new Delta variant and stuff like that.”

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